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Pfizer offers Clayton residents free medicines

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

In Clayton County, there are many people in need of medicines for high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and other ailments that often take a toll on the community.

Many of those drugs, such as Cardura, Norvasc, and Lipitor, are made by Pfizer, the world's largest researched-based pharmaceutical company.

According to 2005 U.S. Census Bureau estimates, one in six Clayton residents lack health insurance. As a result, many of them are unable to afford the medicines the company provides.

Pfizer Helpful Answers, an assistance program to help the uninsured get Pfizer medicines for free, or at reduced prices, has recently made new efforts to promote the program to communities in Georgia. Gary Pelletier, director of Pfizer Helpful Answers, believes the program may help improve the overall health of Clayton County.

"What we find is that no matter how much we talk about the program, there are people who don't know about it," said Pelletier. Since 2003, the program has helped more than five million people receive more than 53 million Pfizer prescriptions for free or at a reduced price, he said.

"It's really about improving access to medicine," said Pelletier. "The big challenge is for people who don't have any insurance. It's often very hard for them to get [medicine] because they are paying for it themselves in cash."

More than 100 various medicines are available through the program, according to Pelletier. By contacting Pfizer, people without prescription coverage, who fall within federal poverty guidelines, can receive those medicines for free, while people, who do not meet federal poverty guidelines, can receive the medicines at reduced prices.

"We have medicines that address high cholesterol and high blood pressure," said Pelletier. "We also have medicines for diabetes, smoking secession, and oncology medicine. A lot of times, people won't take the medicines they need if they are expensive. We try to make sure that people, who have a hard time getting the medicine, will get it, either for free or at a savings."

Renee Johnson, a staff development training coordinator for the Clayton County Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS), said the office is the first stop in the county for people seeking Medicare and Medicaid. With a recent spike in the number of requests for eligibility services, she believes the Pfizer Helpful Answers program may help alleviate some of the burden on the state.

"From the state, everything as a whole has been cut, so there is a very small pool of money," said Johnson. "We don't have a lot of funding to help clients with medical bills, and we're always looking for another way to help people get their prescriptions.

"A lot of people need their medications, but they can't afford it, so they do without," said Johnson. She said the program may help some of the people DFCS has to turn down for services.

To apply to the Pfizer Helpful Answers program, visit www.pfizerhelpfulanswers.com, or call 1-866-706-2400.